Lena Horne Confessed Harsh Truth About How She Used Her White Husband

Posted On : May 30, 2015

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We wanted to feature this story because we think that there’s something to be learned from it. You see, our beloved Lena Horne was known to be a very dedicated civil rights activist who spoke out against injustices against minorities which she, too, oftentimes experienced. She was an actress and singer who paved the way for many other African American entertainers to follow in her footsteps. That’s partly why some of her fans were confused when she married her Caucasian husband, Lennie Hayton, back in the day.

Ms. Horne later did an interview in 1980, where she publicly admitted a brutally honest truth about why she married music composer, Lennie. They were secretly married in 1947, up until his death in 1971.

The shocking revelation that Lena revealed to both Time Magazine and Ebony is that she eventually loved her husband, but was never in love with him, and that she used their marriage for her own personal gain. Here’s what she said: (via Ebony)

In the event that you changed your mind [about getting married for a third time], would you consider marrying another White man, provided he had all of the qualities you mentioned?
Lena: “I don’t think so.”

Is that because marrying a White man for the second time would leave you open to criticism from Blacks that you don’t consider Black men good enough for you?
Lena: “No. That wouldn’t be the reason at all. You must know that in the beginning I didn’t marry Lennie [her deceased Caucasian husband] because I was in love with him. I respected him because he knew a lot of music and I knew that I had to learn how to sing. I callously realized that I would have to associate with a White person to get the things I wanted professionally. It was just that I was alone and I had two children and I was gonna take care of them.”

In other words, to put it quite bluntly, you used him to further your career.
Lena: “That’s right. And I learned to love him very much. It turned out to be a perfect marriage. We were both on the stage together. He wrote all my music and he was very supportive. I was leaning on him. But in spite of all that, racially I have never been any different than I was in the beginning. Over the years I have not learned to love White people any more or any less. I am not that crazy about any race as a whole, but I tend to care more for my own. I just happen to feel more in my own skin with Black people.”

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Lena also told Time Magazine this about her decision to use her husband’s race for career advancement:

“It was cold-blooded and deliberate. I married him [Lennie Hayton] because he could get me into places a Black man couldn’t. But I really learned to love him. He was beautiful, just so damned good.”

Now here’s another thing she revealed about seeing her Mother date a White man when she was a kid:
Lena: “I really never had a mother. She and my father separated when I was three. She went to work as an entertainer with a Black stock company and had to be away from me a lot. She didn’t allow my father to be with me. So their relationship colored my life. I wanted both and I couldn’t have either. Finally when my mother came back to be with me when I was 15, she brought a White husband with her. But I always had been with Black people. So it was a rough go for me and I withdrew. So the outside-whatever looked good and success I supposedly had [throughout my career] never quite made up for all that.”

She admitted that she never liked dating younger men and that she preferred older men who were intelligent, because she felt that she was always searching for her father in a sense.

Okay ILOSM fam’ let’s dig into this for a minute. Of course what Lena Horne did- by using her Caucasian husband- was wrong and her admission doesn’t justify her actions. However, it’s worth noting that in the racially segregated 1940’s, she did what she unfortunately felt she needed to do in order to advance as a Black entertainer and along the way, she opened a lot of doors for other Black entertainers.

So the question is this: Is it better to follow the feeling of the heart, or the strategy of the mind?

Sound off ILOSM fam’ and tell us your thoughts on this one.

-ILoveOldSchoolMusic, Old School news with a new point of view